Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Applied Physiological Ecology lab

My Google Scholar profile of citations 

My ResearchGate profile

Recent news from the physiological ecology lab…

5 August 2014

Maddie's first paper from her post-doc, a microclimate model for bollworm, has now been published in Austral Entomology. Click here for a link to the paper or mail me for a pdf copy. 

2 August 2014

Elsje's paper on developmental temperature impacts on adult water balance in Eldana has just been published in the Journal of Insect Physiology. Click here for a link to the paper.

03 June 2014

Elsje Kleynhans' paper on evolved variation of chill coma onset temperature among Eldana populations has just been published in the Journal of Evolutionary Biology. Please email me if you would like a copy of the article.

19 March 2014

Leigh Boardman had  a paper published on heat shock proteins in sub-Antarctic marine invertebrates with Susana's research group.


Matt Hill's (slightly controversial) paper on Bactrocera invadens and niche overlap among Bactrocera species has just been published. The article is freely available here.


Well done to Elsje Kleynhans for having two papers published this past week - one from her Master's research on tsetse and environmental variability and the role of phenotypic plasticity and the other from her PhD research on Eldana stalk borers which examines host-plant effects on thermal tolerance.


A lot has happened since I last blogged so I'll try to be brief and highlight only the most urgent and exciting of news!

- The APE and CLIME labs did a great weekend away at Landroskop Hut (see team pic here) in early December 2013.

- Congratulations to Dr Leigh Boardman for completing her PhD and to receiving a very prestigious NRF post-doctoral scholarship!

- Congratulations (and welcome) to Vernon Steyn who joins the lab to work with Kate Mitchell and I on dispersal genetics of invasive fruit flies. Vernon also won double funding (John won double admin?) from the CIB and NRF for his project.

- Congratulations to Dr Kate Mitchell on receiving a very prestigious Claude Leon Foundation scholarship to continue her research on dispersal and thermal tolerance in South Africa for another 2 years!

- Congratulations to Dr Matt Hill for securing a prestigious CIB post-doc scholarship to re-focus his research more on invasions and insects!

- and last but not least, we have had a lab member get married: Well done Ruben!

Older lab news

The physiological ecology lab’s focus and my research interests:

My personal research interests span a range of environmental and evolutionary physiology topics. Recently, my research has focused on understanding the factors affecting climatic stress resistance in insects and the potential implications for climate change. A large amount of this work has been undertaken on tsetse flies (Diptera, Glossinidae) as a model for vectors of disease in Africa while I was based at the Centre for Invasion Biology. The type of questions that we tackled included: How do animals adjust their tolerance to a particular situation within remarkably short time spans? Does an animal’s tolerance to environmental extremes make a difference to their geographic distribution and survival in the long term? I continue to work on similar questions across a range of organisms of either agricultural, evolutionary or health importance. If these sorts of questions interest you, then read on!

The evolution of different gas exchange patterns in insects as a form of environmental adaptation has also captured my attention. One such noteworthy pattern is discontinuous gas exchange (DGE). It has been argued that modulating spiracle opening during DGE can save respiratory water although this idea is contentious for several reasons, e.g. animals abandon DGE under conditions when it should be most useful. A host of potential explanations for DGE exist and we are actively involved in pursuing these from experimental and comparative physiology perspectives. Understanding gas exchange also has significant applications to other research fields (e.g. modified atmosphere treatments for post-harvest pest control).

Central to my research is physiological variation and its causes and consequences at different hierarchical levels (individuals, populations and species). We work on a range of organisms and prefer to focus on questions rather than species. In consequence, a wide range of animals are used and include insects, collembola, whip-spiders (Amblypygids), scorpions and even lizards. If you are only interested in reptiles and do NOT want to tough goggas in my lab I suggest you go here.

Postgraduate opportunities:
We do interdisciplinary research including global climate change, physiological responses to environmental conditions, mechanisms underlying environmental tolerance, and principles and applications of insect physiology to broader issues (e.g. conservation, pest management). Highly motivated students interested in undertaking postgraduate research degrees should email me to discuss available projects and funding opportunities. A few projects are available which span a range of disciplines and involve varying levels of field and lab-work. There are also opportunities for undergraduates to gain research experience and interested students should contact me directly.
Intellect, an interest in acquiring new skills, independence and creativity are key characteristics I seek in potential students. Broad interests, someone who likes a challenge, an open mind, and the ability to synthesize different research areas are all useful for a post-graduate degree in my lab.

Key research areas:
  • Physiological plasticity in insects
  • Thermal tolerance of insects
  • Water balance of insects
  • Energy metabolism and gas exchange patterns of insects
  • Evolutionary and ecological physiology of insects
  • Integrated and area-wide pest management
Committees and editorial boards
  • Editorial board member – African Entomology, Austral Entomology, Journal of Thermal Biology
  • Associate Editor – Frontiers in Physiology, Climate Change Responses
  • Committee member - Macrophysiology Meeting 2008, Plymouth, U.K.
  • ACGMO Sub-committee Department of Agriculture
  • INTECOL 2009 – ‘Insect responses to climate change’ session organizer
  • ESSA 2009 – committee member
  • SEB 2010 Prague – ‘periodic ventilation and gas exchange’ session co-organizer